Sumatra, Thailand, Vietnam, W Malaysia Blood pythons are found on both mainland South East Asia, as well as multiple islands throughout the Indonesian archipelago
Live in lowland swampy habitats, as well as in human-modified areas, particularly oil palm plantations.
Female blood pythons are usually larger overall than males; however, males generally have longer tails. Females also mature at larger sizes, and lay eggs every other year. The blood python’s head is long and broad and is wider than its neck. The head coloration ranges from charcoal gray to black. Individual snakes can change how light and dark the head appears. It has a red stripe running from the scales around its nostrils to its neck. Its body is characterized by its massive girth and a relatively short tail that tapers sharply at the end of the body.
Blood pythons exhibit a spectrum of colors, from dark brown to light yellow. They are the only species of the three short-tailed pythons with a red color phase – leading to this snake’s common name. The color pattern on the body consists of rich, bright red to orange, to a duller rusty red ground color. Populations with yellow and brown coloration are also known. The main color pattern of each snake is overlaid with yellow and tan blotches and stripes that run the length of the body, as well as tan and black spots that extend up the flanks. The belly is white, often with small black markings.
Those with the blood red color phase go through a gradual, yet significant, color change prior to maturity. This process may take as long as three years. At hatching, most blood pythons are a ruddy brown or tan color.
Due to their wide-spread distribution, there has been some confusion as to how many species and/or subspecies exist. Up until 2001, researchers believed that there was only one species of blood python, with three subspecies. Today, herpetologists, scientists who study reptiles and amphibians, have identified three species – and possibly a fourth – distinct species of blood python.
Blood pythons prefer to live near water and are active at night. When not resting in water, they typically hide under leaves and brush. They are ambush predators – laying hidden and still on land or under water, waiting to ambush unsuspecting prey.
Pythons are constrictors and are aided by heat-sensing pits on their upper lips that help them to detect their warm-blooded prey. This lets the snakes know when prey is close enough to strike. It is quickly grabbed with their curved teeth. The snakes then coil around their prey, constricting tightly. As they squeeze, they do not crush the prey and break bones, but rather squeeze so tightly that their prey cannot breathe and suffocates.
Despite the fact that these pythons appear stout, and don’t move around all that much, they can climb trees. To do so, the scales on their belly are designed to grip the bark of trees.
Like all snakes, they molt – or shed – several times a year to accommodate growth. Before shedding, their coloration dulls and their eyes become cloudy. To help them remove the old skin, they will often seek out and rub against rough surfaces. Once a tear is made in the old skin, the snake slithers out and leaves a shed behind. It may take more than a week for the snake to complete this process. They often are more brilliantly colored after shedding.
Roughly 60 to 70 days after mating, the female lays 12-30 eggs. Most snake species lay the eggs and depart, leaving the young to develop on their own. However, the female blood python coils around the eggs and vibrates, or shivers, to produce heat (88 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit) which the eggs need to develop. Because of the energy she uses in shivering, she may lose half her body weight during the incubation period. The eggs hatch after about 75 days. The eggs measure five and half to six inches and weigh about three and a half ounces.
Young blood pythons are 12 - 14 inches long at hatching. They generally shed for the first time between the ages of two and four months.
Although they are not considered an endangered or threatened species, their population is currently being impacted by collection for the international pet trade and for leather products. It is estimated that as many as 10,000 individuals are killed just for their skins each year.
Despite these threats, populations in some areas are thought to be increasing. This is due to their ability to successfully establish populations in palm oil plantations, which attract rodents. Although the increase in palm oil plantations is potentially benefitting this snake species, palm oil plantations are the leading source of rainforest destruction in Malaysia and Indonesia and are negatively impacting the survival of endangered animals such as orangutans and Asian elephants.
You can help by making environmentally responsible lifestyle decisions to help conserve habitat. One way to help slow the destruction of tropical rainforests and to save endangered wildlife, such as the orangutan and Asian elephant, is to choose to purchase products containing sustainable palm oil. These products will be labeled with the RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) trademark – visit www.cmzoo.org/docs/palmOilShoppingGuide.pdf for more information
|Did YOU Know?|
|Their cryptic coloration and ability to hold still allows them to camouflage in order to hide from both predators and prey.|
|Length:||4 - 6 feet; females are larger than males|
|Weight:||up to 30 pounds|
|Average Lifespan:||up to 25 years|
|Wild Diet:||These snakes primarily feed on rodents and occasionally eat birds.|
|Predators:||Their main predators are humans and large birds of prey. Young snakes are also susceptible to predation by other snakes and crocodilians.|
|USFWS Status:||Not Listed|
|Where at the Zoo?||Small Animal Building|